I’ve always wanted to have a ‘trademark thing’ that is mine. I’ve tried nicknames but none really catch on considering my name is un-nick-nameable. I’ve tried hair, but ‘fluffy and b’fringed’ isn’t really an expression of identity. It’s just the way my hair grows. Unless there’s a bit shaved out of it, it’s hardly a statement. So I find myself stuck for trademarks. How is one to find an expression of self that is absolutely theirs?
When one is in college, it’s easy to understand how hoodies have become the uniform of choice- it’s invaluable to have a quick extra layer of warmth to add or remove as the changing climate of a lecture theatre will demand. JH1 in Maynooth gets rolling fucking fogs somedays and TH2 is a sweatbox. I have a nice selection of hoodies- a Drama one, a Literary and Debating one and a GAP one. They’re nice but they’re all a bit… meh. There’s nothing very ‘Niamh’ about a hoodie, I began to realise. They make me look boated, and they’re just kind of boring. They feel uncomfortable on me. But lecture theatres are chilly and I need some form of warmth.
Another side effect of my recent downsizing is that I am freezing cold all the bloody time. A whole layer of body fat keeping me insulated and slow moving is now eradicated. Happily, I’ve begun to amass quite a collection of what has clearly been my trademark all along- My mother’s hand-knitted Aran Jumpers!
I really love my jumpers. My mother is a knitting master. She knits when she’s ‘in the humour’ and recently she’s been in humour a lot- therefore, massive payoff for me. She’s precise and exact in her work, and takes great pride in her pieces. I’ve had a penchent for the hand knitted since I was wee and mum knitted me and my brothers three matching white Aran cardigans. They were handy for picking us out in a crowd, she claims. There is something pleasantly contrary in chunky little aran jumpers. Recently a similar little white cardigan was sent to my baby cousin in Australia. Along with ginger hair and this cardi she will be the most absurdly Irish thing in Melbourne. Another of her greatest hits includes the legendary Teletubby number of 1997- a bright yellow pullover for my brother with Po’s face on it. My school cardigan, my communion cardigan- all little works of art now lost forever, donated to charity shops and the circuit of hand me downs in our area.
There is great warmth to be had in a mammy knitted jumper. So I began to gather my collection again after a long period of feeling too fat to wear knits. I have the devastatingly sexy green number seen above, alongside the awe inspiring majesty of my grey Aran tunic-style pullover which is so baggy it is surely breaking several international mandates regulating jumper bagginess.
It is surely wasteful to exploit the spoils of so many sheep’s backs to use for just one jumper but how and ever…
Of course the favourite of my jumpers is my autumn standard.
Not the first but surely the best. It’s the best colour in the world- not too orange to be un-wearable but not so brown that it’s boring. It’s snug but not tight and also within acceptable bagginess regulations. The pattern is simple but effective. It’s my fave. When I got my book signed by Caitlin Moran she complimented it, which was nice. It’s unbelievably warm and snug. Goddamn, I love it so much. It’s been with me to festivals, to parties, to cold rehearsals and chilly train journeys. It’s made a pillow, a rain hood (wool can absorb more than 4 times it’s weight in water before it begins to feel wet, for your information) and a faithful lecture companion. It smelled of woodsmoke for two weeks after the festival, and every stitch of it is a fond memory.
Something strange happened in 2012. Suddenly fluffy hair became trendy again. And then flowery dresses came back. and then black boots and tights came back. And now knitwear is having a huge renasissance. I didn’t become cool- what I already was has somehow become inexplicably cool. I have noted a few dissapointed faces when asked where I got my jumper only to tell people ‘oh my mum made it! It’s weird. My effort to be uncool has made me inexplicably cool.
Niamh ‘1993 called and they want their fashion back’ Keoghan